Sam Mallahy doesn’t have a problem calling her coworkers by their first names during casual conversations, except for maybe a few people.
Ms. Mallahy, one of Riverhead High School’s newest teachers, is a former student from Flanders, a Class of 2008 graduate who also earned a spot among the top 15 students. Fast-forward seven years, and she’s landed her first teaching job at her alma mater, where she’ll teach global history.
“It’s awesome and a little strange because I’m working with people that were my teachers,” Ms. Mallahy said during an interview last Wednesday after the district’s annual New Teacher Institute program. “There have been people asking me to call them by their first name.”
One of them is Lisa Goulding, Ms. Mallahy’s former social studies teacher.
“She said, ‘Call me Lisa,’ and I’m like, ‘No, you’re Ms. Goulding,’ ” Ms. Mallahy recalled fondly. “I was really inspired by all of the social studies teachers I had at the high school. I always wanted to be a teacher and they led me to choose social studies. I learned a lot from them and those were always my favorite classes — the most personality, jokes and fun.”
Ms. Mallahy is one of 30 new hires in the Riverhead School District who started work this week.
Wading River resident and veteran educator Roberta MacGray is also among the new arrivals. She’s not only a former Riverhead student, but has also provided professional development to the district’s teachers and helped with integrating technology into their classrooms in recent years.
“I’m so excited to be in the Riverhead School District,” she said, adding that her two children are starting kindergarten and fifth grade this year. “I feel this is the place I was suppose to land.”
Ms. MacGray replaces Janice Szczesny, who taught family and consumer science teacher at the high school for the past 18 years before retiring in June. Ms. Szczesny was among 20 district employees who retired at the end of the last school year.
Ms. MacGray said she’s grateful for Ms. Szczesny’s help in transitioning to her new role and looks forward to working with students in the newly constructed high school.
In addition to replacing retired teachers, the district has added bilingual and ESL positions to accommodate the district’s growing Hispanic population.
Samuel Feliciano is among those new teachers. He said he’s excited to start his new role as a third-grade bilingual teacher at Phillips Avenue Elementary School.
Like Ms. Mallahy, this is Mr. Feliciano’s first teaching job. He graduated from St. Joseph’s College last year has been working as a substitute teacher. However, he believes his experience working as a family advocate at Head Start in Ronkonkoma since 2011 has especially prepared him to help socially and economically challenged families.
“I would visit families at their homes to help them,” he said. “I’ve seen the types of situations families here are in. I know I can help them.”
Mr. Feliciano said helping students new to this country is near and dear to his heart, since both his parents came from Puerto Rico with “nothing more than the shirts on their backs.”
“I’m here to help the district make its vision a reality — to be able to include these families as they would anyone else,” he said. “These are the kinds of families I want to work with.”
Ms. Mallahy, a certified ESL teacher, and Ms. MacGray, who’s nearly completed ESL certification, said they share those goals and agree that teacher collaboration is key to student success.
When Ms. MacGray mentioned she’s planning a Culture Night featuring international cuisine, Ms. Mallahy said she’s definitely interested in participating and will bring a social studies element into the lesson plan.
“Can Phillips Avenue come, too?” Mr. Feliciano asked with a smile.
“Of course!” Ms. MacGray replied. “It will be open to all.”
“Great,” Mr. Feliciano said. “I’ll make empanadas.”
Photo: From left, teachers Roberta MacGray, Sam Mallahy and Samuel Feliciano outside Aquebogue Elementary School last Wednesday after attending the district’s annual training session for new teachers. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)